Pollinator Protection Strategic Plan

     Office of Pesticide Programs
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

June 17, 2009

            Strategic Plan of the Pollinator Protection Team


In recent years, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees and pollinator declines in
general have become serious environmental concerns that could ultimately threaten the
functioning of our natural ecosystems and affect the production of many important crops
in the United States (Status of Pollinators in North America1 and Colony Collapse
Disorder Action Plan2). Pesticide use has been identified as a potential contributing
factor to these declines along with other potential factors such as new and reemerging
pathogens, habitat loss, pests, bee management practices, and nutritional stress.

To address the potential contribution of pesticides to the decline of pollinators, and honey
bees in particular, the Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), Dr. Debra
Edwards, established a multidisciplinary team, the OPP Pollinator Protection Team
(PPT), which includes staff from the various scientific and regulatory divisions within
OPP as well as staff from EPA's regional offices and the Office of General Counsel.
This multidisciplinary team is tasked with exploring possible approaches, tools, and
resources for reducing the potential risks of pesticides to pollinators and with developing
a strategic plan that will guide its future work and direction.

Before developing a strategic plan, the PPT met with  numerous interest groups,
researchers, and stakeholders to understand the many challenges and potential factors
involved in pollinator declines. Although the role that pesticides play in pollinator
declines has not been determined, the PPT has moved ahead and developed a broad
strategic plan that ensures the Agency's risk assessments and risk management decisions
make use of best available information and scientific methods, and full evaluation of
pollinator protection when making  registration decisions.  The strategy will also serve as
the foundation for developing a work plan with accompanying activities that in turn will
be incorporated into OPP's future planning process.


Our vision is to promote and enhance pollinator protection consistent with the Agency's
mission to protect public health and the environment and in particular to ensure that
pollinators are not subject to unreasonable adverse effects from exposure to pesticides.
To accomplish this vision, the PPT will work closely  with its international, federal, and
state partners and stakeholders in the implementation of a strategic plan for protection
and conservation of pollinators, with an emphasis on reducing the potential effects of
1 National Academies Press, Washington, D.C, 2007.
2 USD A, available at www.ars.usda.gov/is/br/ccd.

Looking Forward

Goal 1: Advance the Agency's Scientific Knowledge and Assessment of Pesticide
Risks to Pollinators

The Agency bases its regulatory decisions for registering and reevaluating pesticides for
use in the United States on sound science. To further enhance the scientific basis for
characterizing the potential adverse effects of pesticides to pollinators, PPT members are
working with researchers domestically and abroad to identify and advance the scientific
knowledge that will inform the Agency's risk management decisions.  Team members are
also exploring options for pollinator research and protection through contract and grant
programs.  The  Agency is actively working with its federal, state, tribal, and international
partners in efforts to identify, measure, and describe the potential impact of pesticides on
pollinators.  As part of that effort, PPT members are also working to facilitate reporting
of bee incidents to the Agency.  Since the formation of the USDA-led Colony Collapse
Disorder Steering Committee, PPT members have been actively involved in helping to
design and collect information on research studies examining the potential adverse effects
of pesticides to  honey bees.

To further the Agency's characterization of effects to pollinators, the PPT will work with
stakeholders and researchers to improve testing protocols for pollinator toxicity studies
required under the Agency's pesticide data requirement regulations. While the current
battery of tests provide information on the potential contact toxicity of pesticide residues
on plant surfaces from foliar application, reliable measures of the potential toxicity to
honey bees from systemic pesticides are needed. Besides developing testing protocols
for systemic pesticides, PPT members will also be examining existing protocols to ensure
that they more fully capture potential sublethal and chronic effects of pesticides to adult
honey bees and brood. Finally, the PPT will  explore the feasibility of convening
workshops to develop a risk assessment process for honey bees, and to identify the data
necessary to inform this process.

Goal 2: Improve Risk Management Tools for Mitigating Potential Risks to

Another PPT goal is to develop management tools that will balance the benefits of
pesticide use with their impacts on pollinators.  This includes working with various
federal partners, NGOs,  and other stakeholders.  With respect to pollinators, exposure and
toxicity studies  submitted to  support the registration of pesticide products are used to
develop bee precautionary statements/warnings on pesticide labels. Based on the
Agency's experience with label language and effected stakeholders, the Agency believes
that the idea of  "one size fits all" approach does not work for bee labeling statements.
Therefore, an important  area of work for the PPT will be developing improved label
language that is designed with stakeholder feedback which is clear and enforceable. As
part of its strategy to improve risk management tools, the PPT will examine the entire
range of current mitigation options such as best management practices (BMPs), and

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. Through its efforts, this workgroup will
build a toolkit of effective mitigation measures for protecting pollinators.

An important part of mitigating risk to pollinators is managing the way in which
pesticides are applied in the field.  Working with advisory groups (e.g. Pesticide Program
Dialogue Committee and the State-FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group),
partners, and stakeholders, PPT members will examine the current guidance for pesticide
applicators and explore more effective guidance and application techniques to reduce
potential pesticide exposure to pollinators. The PPT will also work closely with the
states and other federal partners to investigate the feasibility of education initiatives such
as incorporating competency standards and guidance for pollinator protection into the
pesticide applicator certification regulations and training manuals.

Goal 3: Increase and Broaden Collaboration and Communication with
Governmental and Non-governmental Organizations and the Public in Addressing
Pollinator Issues

Collaboration and communication with our domestic and international partners and our
stakeholders are key to enhancing our ability to protect pollinators. Through continued
meetings with interest groups, registrants, states, regions, other federal agencies, and
international regulators, OPP can become better informed of the issues/concerns facing
these organizations and provide them with better information concerning our programs
for protecting pollinators. In implementing this goal, the PPT will establish a workgroup
to explore new options for reaching its stakeholders and the public through such
mechanisms as list serves, outreach materials, scientific meetings, and news outlets.

To minimize the impact of pesticides on pollinators, collaborations will include various
mechanisms for increasing and improving the adoption of IPM, and reduced risk
pesticides as well as other measures such as habitat conservation through USDA's
Conservation Reserve Program. The Team will also pursue opportunities for technical
assistance and training of agricultural pesticide users.

Because many of the issues associated with pollinator declines occur at the local level,
communication and cooperation between beekeepers and growers/applicators are critical
in protecting pollinators from potential adverse effects of pesticides. For this reason, the
PPT will work with states and regions  to evaluate and enhance the infrastructure for
beekeeping operations, including hive  registries and notification procedures, and will
work to encourage local partnerships or agreements among beekeepers, growers, and
pesticide applicators. As communication is always a critical component of success, the
PPT will strive to communicate with all its partners and stakeholders on all these many
issues and efforts with the goal of transparency, balance, and inclusion.